Fever, p.10
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       Fever, p.10

         Part #2 of Breathless series by Maya Banks

  be mine. As for that bullshit about me not wanting you after you told me about your past, well, it’s just that. Bullshit. We all make mistakes, baby. Nobody is perfect. I’m not. You’re not. It would be boring as shit if we were.”

  Tears pricked her eyelids and he kissed the corner of her eye before any could spill over the edge.

  “Don’t cry, Bethany. Not here in our bed. Not with me inside you. I want you to shut out everything else except me and you and the way I make you feel. Forget everything but this.”

  He pulled back and then eased forward, pushing gently until he was all the way back in again.

  His voice changed, becoming more serious, but his gaze never left her. “I’m not saying this is going to be easy. I’ll make mistakes. You’ll make mistakes—mostly about trying to draw attention to the differences between us. I realize it’ll take time for you to get over this mind-set that you’re somehow not good enough for me. It pisses me off but I get that you can’t change a lifetime of seeing yourself the way you do overnight. But I’m going to work on it and I’m going to wear you down, so just be forewarned. I’m a persistent bastard and I never walk away from something I want, whether in business or my personal life.”

  She reached up, wrapping her arms around his neck, and pulled him down to meet her kiss. He seemed surprised by the sudden gesture and he let her take control of the kiss.

  “Shut up and kiss me,” she whispered against his mouth.

  He smiled, his lips curving against hers. “Now that I can do, baby.”

  They went silent as their tongues tangled and clashed, twisting and rolling until she was breathless and panting. He groaned low in his throat and pushed his arms underneath her so he could gather her closer against his body.

  His hips arched fluidly, his cock sliding in and out of her body until she was dizzy with pleasure. And he was so close. There wasn’t a part of her that he wasn’t touching in some way. His body was pressed against her and she could feel every twitch, every time his muscles coiled and bunched with the effort of his movements.

  It hit her as he tore his mouth from hers and pressed a line of kisses down her jaw to her neck that this was nothing like the meaningless sex she’d experienced. There was nothing dirty or emotionally bereft about this.

  It wasn’t even like the threesome she’d had with Jace and Ash.

  For the first time in her life, she was making love.

  And it sounded absurd. It sounded trite and cheesy and a whole host of other words that escaped her. It made her sound like a silly twit who couldn’t separate feelings from sex.

  But the simple truth was, the only feelings she’d experienced previously were of shame, self-loathing, embarrassment, hopelessness . . .

  She didn’t know how to process the bombardment of emotion Jace evoked. She was overwhelmed and not in the way she’d said the day before. He surrounded her, touched her, filled her. Filled places that had long been left hollow and aching. He reached into the very heart of her and spread warmth and contentment.

  She hugged him to her, not wanting even the barest of inches to separate them. She clung to him as he rocked into her, deeper, harder, penetrating to her very soul.

  Overwhelming? Definitely. Everything about Jace rocked the foundations of her existence. He’d upended her life in a matter of hours and yet she didn’t feel panic. Maybe she should. She was back in his bed—after only hours of being back with him—and yet it didn’t feel wrong. It didn’t feel cheap. And wasn’t that what was important?

  She closed her eyes, still clinging fiercely to him. She was utterly wrecked by the enormity of what was happening even if she didn’t fully comprehend it.


  Jace’s tender voice pulled her from her scattered thoughts.

  “Look at me, baby.”

  She opened her eyes to see him staring intently down at her. There was concern in his expression and a look of tenderness that matched his tone.

  “Are you all right?”

  She nodded, not trusting herself to voice her response.

  “You sure?”

  Again she nodded and hugged him tighter. “Kiss me.”

  “You never have to ask for that.”

  He kissed her. Fierce. Possessive. She shivered and arched her body, only wanting to be closer to him.

  “How close are you?” he whispered.

  “Almost there,” she whispered back.

  “Tell me what you need to get there.”

  “You,” she said. “Just you.”

  His eyes flashed and his jaw clenched. Then he was kissing her again. Harder. Hot. Until she was breathing his air and he was breathing hers.

  They were locked together so tightly that she didn’t even know how he managed to keep thrusting. Her release built low and deep—so deep that it felt like she was being turned inside out.

  It was scary and huge, overwhelming in the best possible way. This she didn’t fear. Not this time. It felt so very right. That should have scared her too. It was then she realized that no matter how ridiculous it sounded, she trusted him. She trusted him to take care of her. No matter that she didn’t really know him. That they’d only been together twice and only for a matter of hours. She knew he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. She just knew it.

  “I trust you,” she whispered.

  She had to give him this. Knew how important it was. He wanted her trust and at the same time he acknowledged that it would take time. But she wanted to give this to him now because he was giving her so much and this was all she had to give him. Nothing else. There was nothing she could give him that he didn’t already have. Except herself. It wasn’t enough but it was what he wanted—what he said he wanted—and it was the only thing she had to give.

  “Ah, baby,” he groaned. “You undo me.”

  He began to move faster, harder. It was as if her words sent him right over the edge. His control was gone and she reveled in the ferocity of his possession.

  She went slick around him and he moved easier, pushing into her until she gasped at his depth.

  And then she began to unravel. Everything she’d held so tightly within for so long began to loosen.

  It was too much. He’d said she undid him, but in truth she was the one coming completely undone.

  She squeezed him tight, never wanting to let go. She wanted to live in this moment where nothing could touch her, where nothing else mattered. It was so easy to forget her life, her circumstances. Because in his arms she was strong. She was worthy.

  Gasping his name, she closed her eyes against the sudden surge of tears, but even then she felt them slide hotly down her cheeks. Never had she been so devastated by an orgasm, and it seemed such a tawdry word, completely incapable of describing what was happening.

  The world blurred around her. All she could feel was him. Inside her. His mouth on her skin. His cock buried deep. Two halves of a whole.

  She floated downward, her body weightless, her mind completely adrift. She wasn’t even sure she was conscious.

  And then she became aware of Jace’s weight covering her. He was limp and his chest heaved with exertion, but he felt so good, so solid on top of her. She never wanted him to move.

  She pressed her lips to the hollow indention at his collarbone and savored this connection. Savored the feeling of being wanted. Of being cherished and cared for on an emotional level.

  He shifted and she started to protest but then she caught sight of his expression and she stopped. He levered up enough that he brought his hand to her face and she realized that her cheeks were wet with her tears.

  “Hey,” he said gently. “What’s this?”

  She was embarrassed over her reaction. How could she explain the enormity of this feeling? She tried to look away, but he wouldn’t let her. He lowered his head and kissed away the damp trails and then lifted his head to stare into her eyes once more.


  There was concern in his voice, which made her fee
l all the more foolish.

  “I’m okay,” she choked out.

  “Are you?”

  “I’ve never been more okay,” she said softly.

  He seemed to understand then. He smiled and kissed her again.

  “Let me get rid of the condom and then we need to talk,” he said.

  Alarmed, she let him roll off her and waited as he discarded the condom. Then he was back on the bed, reaching for her to tuck her into his side.

  He stroked through her hair, silent as he held her against him.

  “I don’t want anything between us,” he finally said.

  Not fully understanding what he meant, she stayed quiet as she waited.

  “We need to get you an appointment so we can have tests and then we need to put you on birth control. I don’t want to wear condoms. I want no barrier between us. I’ll, of course, continue to use them until it’s safe, but you’re mine and I want unfettered access to you. All of you. Are you okay with that?”

  Even though she knew—he’d certainly made himself clear—hearing that he had every intention of them having sex on a regular basis threw her for a loop. It all sounded so . . . permanent, and she knew a relationship between them could be anything but.

  “Baby? Talk to me. You’re too damn quiet. Are you freaked out? Am I moving too fast?”

  She nearly laughed. Now he was worried about moving too fast? She didn’t even know he had any concept of moving too fast.

  “I don’t have a problem with birth control. But Jace, we have to talk.”

  He kissed her, effectively silencing her.

  “We don’t need to talk about anything other than getting you what you need. What we need,” he amended. “It’s a fact that you’re going to be in my bed. Eventually my apartment. I’m trying to give you space to work this out. I don’t want to overwhelm you but you need to know that I’m serious about this. And I’m going to fight any statement from you that begins with you not being with me.”

  “Wow,” she breathed.

  “Anything else you need to say?” he asked, amusement coloring his voice.

  “I guess not,” she murmured.

  “Good. Then let’s have breakfast and then I’ll take you shopping.”

  “But Jace, what about work? You can’t just take off shopping with me on a whim.”

  “There are perks to being the boss,” he said smugly. “One of them being that I can take a few hours off. It’s not like I’m going to get fired.”

  “Well, okay then.”

  He patted her on the ass and then rolled out of bed, leaving her lying there on her side.

  “I’m going to shower right quick and then you can have the bathroom while I start on breakfast. Sound good?”

  She nodded, unable to keep the smile from curving her mouth.

  He smiled back, his eyes lighting up. “You need to do that more often and if I have my way, you will.”

  Her brow furrowed in puzzlement. “Do what?”


  chapter fourteen

  Shopping with Jace was an exhausting, thrilling, completely baffling experience. He swept through the department stores and countless boutiques like a man on a mission and he was exacting in his requirements. It occurred to her that he had a lot of experience in shopping for a woman and she didn’t like the jealousy that seized her. Until Jace wryly commented that he’d made countless shopping trips with his younger sister over the years.

  When it became obvious that Bethany wouldn’t choose any of the dreadfully expensive items that Jace was convinced she needed, he forewent asking her altogether and took charge. He bulldozed his way through the stores, pointing out what he wanted in her sizes and had the saleslady collect them.

  After outfitting her in all the necessities, from underwear—which was horribly awkward—to bras—equally awkward—to jeans, shirts and dresses she had no clue why she’d ever need, he then purchased sweaters, two coats—one short and one long—and three pairs of fur-lined boots.

  “I don’t want your feet getting cold,” he told her.

  She was appalled and at the same time her heart melted at the care he took in picking out every single purchase.

  By the end of the five-hour marathon, Bethany’s head was spinning and Jace’s driver had to help carry all the purchases to the car. There was a veritable mountain of bags and boxes in the trunk and they still had to stuff many of them in the front seat.

  Bethany sagged into the seat, bewildered by the way the day had shaped up. Yes, he’d said he was taking her shopping. She figured he’d buy a coat—since he was so pissed that she didn’t own one—and maybe a few items. She’d never expected an entire wardrobe and enough clothes to wear every day for a month without duplication! She didn’t even want to know what all this had cost. She’d refused to look at the price tags after she’d made the mistake of peeking at the first one. She’d nearly fainted and Jace had frowned and promptly directed her gaze elsewhere.

  Jace reached over for her hand and squeezed. “Everything okay?”

  She nodded. “I’ve never done that before. I mean obviously, but not even on a smaller scale. Most of my shopping—if you can call it that—has been at thrift shops and Goodwill stores.”

  He scowled. “Those days are over, Bethany. I want you to forget them.”

  She sighed. Over until he moved on, got over his . . . She wasn’t even sure what to call his seeming attraction to her. Whatever it was wouldn’t last forever and going back to her life would be even harder afterward. Before it had been all she knew but now? Jace was giving her a taste of how different things could be.

  They pulled up in front of a sleek, modern-looking building on the Upper West Side and Jace got out, extending his hand to help her from the car. After instructing his driver to see that the bags were brought up, he directed Bethany toward the entrance.

  Once inside, he introduced her to the doorman. Evidently Jace had already notified him that she’d be staying in the apartment because it was more a case of formality than introducing a new situation.

  Then Jace gave her a tour of the facilities and the amenities offered by the building. She couldn’t imagine taking advantage of any of them. Having an actual apartment was a luxury she couldn’t even wrap her mind around. To have all of the extra perks blew her mind.

  She was relieved when they finally got on the elevator and rode up to the apartment. Her nerves were shot. She was frazzled by all the shopping and she desperately wanted a quiet place to decompress.

  Jace unlocked the door and then held it open for her. “Let’s go see your apartment, baby.”

  Her apartment. She still couldn’t comprehend being given an entire apartment. It was insane. Jace was insane. But then she’d already covered that ground.

  When she walked in, her breath caught and she stopped dead in the middle of the floor. And she stared. Tears welled and a sob crept out of her throat.

  Jace wrapped an arm around her and squeezed. “Baby.”

  He dragged out the word in an aching voice that made her heart turn over in a fluttery cartwheel.

  “It’s beautiful, Jace,” she whispered.


  “It’s perfect.”

  He smiled and kissed her on the nose. “And you haven’t seen it all yet.”

  “I’ve seen enough to know it’s perfect.”

  And it was. The living room and kitchen blended together in one large room with an open concept she loved. But the color scheme was what made it absolutely perfect. Done in earth tones, the room—the entire apartment—had a homey, cozy feel that was the epitome of everything she’d ever wanted in a place to live.

  And the kitchen was state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances. A chef’s stove. And it looked to be fully stocked with cookware and cutlery. Her hands itched to get into that kitchen and cook.

  “Come on,” he said. “I’ll show you the rest and by then your bags should be up.”

  They did a brief tour of the be
drooms and the bathrooms and when they came back there was a growing pile of bags being deposited inside the door. A moment later, a tall, very muscular man strode through the door followed by a slightly shorter and stockier man. They both looked like guys out of a bodybuilding magazine. Beefed-up arms. They just looked like badasses.

  The man in the lead had shades that he flipped up and Bethany instinctively pushed in closer to Jace’s side, seeking his protection. These men reminded her too much of her run-in with the guys who’d wanted money from Jack.

  “They won’t hurt you,” Jace murmured.

  He slipped his arm around her and squeezed her against him. Instantly she felt . . . better. More secure. It didn’t matter that the men were twice Jace’s size. Veritable mountains and they looked . . . questionable at best. She was next to Jace and he wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt her.

  At Jace’s words, the front man pulled up short and frowned. He held up his hand to halt the other guy and they both stood a short distance away, careful to maintain the space between them and where she stood.

  “Mr. Crestwell,” the front man said. “I’m Kaden Ginsberg and this is Trevor Dixon.”

  Jace extended his arm, stepping forward to shake each of their hands. “Thank you both for coming.”

  He turned and motioned Bethany forward. Hesitantly, she stepped in Jace’s direction and eyed the two newcomers with caution.

  Jace held out his hand for Bethany to take and she slipped her fingers into his. He laced them together and tugged her forward so she was once again at his side.

  “This is your security team.”

  She couldn’t formulate a response. Security team? Why on earth did she have a security team? She cast a bewildered look in Jace’s direction.


  The one word came out cracked and hoarse.

  His lips pressed together in a gesture of impatience. Then he turned to Kaden and Trevor. “Let’s sit in the living room. We have a lot to talk about. I want your absolute assurance that Bethany will be safe in your care when I can’t be with her.”

  Kaden nodded. “Of course.”

  Jace put a hand to Bethany’s back and urged her toward the couch. He sat down next to her, linking his fingers with hers. They were so close that their thighs touched. She leaned in closer as she cautiously eyed Kaden and Trevor. They sat across from the couch in two chairs that looked far too small for their bulky frames.

  “You look like professional wrestlers,” she blurted. Then she felt like a complete moron and she dropped her gaze to stare at her and Jace’s linked hands.

  Kaden chuckled, forcing her to look back up. He had a really good laugh. Not at all mean sounding. It was soft and vibrated over her ears. It was . . . nice.

  “It helps in my line of work, ma’am.”

  “Oh yeah,” she muttered.

  Jace squeezed her hand and then directed his attention toward her security team. She felt ridiculous calling them that. The whole thing seemed so utterly bizarre that she couldn’t wrap her head around it.

  He glanced back at Bethany, his eyes serious. “Kaden and Trevor will accompany you everywhere when I’m not with you. They’ll shadow your every move—and I do mean every move. When you’re here, they’ll be here. If you go out, they go with you.”

  Her eyes widened. “But why? I don’t get it. Jace, this is crazy. I’m nobody. Nobody cares about me. I have nothing, so no one has any investment in me. There’s nothing to gain by kidnapping me or God knows what else you’re thinking.”

  Jace sighed. “Do you forget that a day ago those bastards had you on the ground? That they kicked you and threatened you? They gave you a week to respond. What do you think’s going to happen when that week comes and goes, Bethany? Think
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